Report: US Pressures Netherlands on Exports of ASML Chip Equipment to China

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Dutch semiconductor equipment maker ASML’s wunderkind chip manufacturing technology has become embroiled in the technology trade war between the United States and China, according to a Bloomberg story.  The U.S. is pressuring officials in The Netherlands to block ASML from selling older deep ultraviolet lithography (DUV) systems to China while also attempting to persuade Japan to cancel exports of DUV systems made by Nikon.

To be sure, DUV is not ASML’s most advanced lithography process – that’s the company’s extreme ultraviolet light (EUV) systems enabling nanometer drops from 7 to 5 to 3 in chips manufactured by TSMC and other fab companies and that are used to power HPC systems, among other devices. ASML is the only EUV equipment maker in the world.

The ASML issue is at the heart of a long-standing struggle between the U.S. and China, with the former determined to maintain its world technology lead and China bent on developing indigenous technology that can compete with, or surpass, U.S., European and Japanese technology.

“Washington’s proposed restriction would expand an existing moratorium on the sale of the most advanced systems to China, in an attempt to thwart China’s plans to become a world leader in chip production,” Bloomberg reported, based on unnamed sources. “If the Netherlands agrees, it would broaden significantly the range and class of chipmaking gear now forbidden from heading to China….”

Bloomberg’s sources said the issue came up during a recent visit to the Netherlands by U.S. Deputy Commerce Secretary Dan Graves to discuss supply chain issues. If the ban goes into effect, it could result in a hit to ASML sales of between 5 and 10 percent, Bloomberg reported.